BJJ Etiquette: Don’t Coach Your Training Partners

It’s impossible to get better in BJJ without coaching. Everyone that has trained for any length of time has experienced how helpful it can be for you coach to mention the exact right move for you to make, at the exact right time. It’s even more so in competition, if you choose to go that route.

However, there’s a dark side to coaching, too. It happens all the time. Many of us are guilty of it. It’s really, really annoying. It’s as simple as this: unless you’re a coach, don’t coach during live training. It’s fine to help your partner figure out a movement during drills or technique practice, of course. But when the action is on, get to work with your moves, not your mouth.

  • Simple guidelines: Never stop a live roll to give advice to your partner on what they are doing.
  • Don’t watch a match from the sidelines and holler things to your teammates. (It’s fine to say general things like “Go go go! You got it!” etc.)
  • Don’t interrupt someone else’s match to coach them.

Just don’t do it.  Unless you’re a coach at the academy, you should not be giving out advice to your training partners without being asked. Just train.  The best learning experience your partner can have is for you to be a good partner, and that means working the techniques, maintaining an intensity level appropriate to your partner’s size and skill, and doing work, not talking about how to do work. 

There are coaches at the academy. It is our job to coach you. You are a student, and your job is to learn. It’s very difficult to do both. 

Here is the exception to this rule: it’s fine to answer a question that someone asks you. The correct way to ask your partner a question is to wait for a break in the action. If you can’t finish the rear naked choke, for example, wait for a break in the action, and ask why they didn’t tap. Don’t stop the action to ask why it isn’t working – this destroys the fluidity and rhythm of the art of jiu jitsu.  You can and should be asking questions, and you can ask anyone. Just do it at the right time.

There are several reasons why coaching your training partners is a no-no. For one, if you’re a lower belt, zip it. Sad to say, but your expertise is not at the level that is all that useful to anyone. Lower belts coaching someone above their rank is one of the biggest asshole moves in jiu jitsu. Secondly, you may well be giving someone conflicting advice to what their actual coach has just told them, which is a mess. Third, stopping to coach ruins the flow and rhythm of the action, and it can be a total insult.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone who is being attacked correctly and dangerously stop the action to “coach” their opponent through a finish of a submission that they were 94% finished with anyways. It’s a subtle, sneaky way to avoid having to tap. It’ s stupid. Knock it off. If they have it, they finish it, and you tap. If they don’t have it, you escape, and it continues. That’s how people learn.

If you have any questions, just ask. Ask a coach.

 

 

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